Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Book Review — The Boy Who Listened to Paintings: A Memoir, by Dean Kostos

I purchased The Boy Who Listened to Paintings: A Memoir directly from the author at a brunch we both attended. That said, you guys know that the following will be my honest, unvarnished opinion.

The Boy Who Listened to Paintings: A Memoir is a very compelling book. Kostos’ candid, heart-wrenching memoir really resonated with me for many reasons, not the least of which was the role art played in keeping him going when all else failed.

It was not an easy book for me to read. Many of the struggles Kostos had ran at least parallel to struggles I had as the odd duck in my nuclear family. The recognition of those parallels, however, just made this memoir ring true. The feelings of not fitting in, the trying to toughen myself to the taunts of the bullies and mean girls I spent my school years with, the feeling responsible for the problems in my family were all territory I have traversed, and this memoir made me look at them again, but from a distance and with greater perspective.

While some of my choices, and the way I handled some of my struggles, differed from his, it was easy to see him growing into himself throughout the course of the book. It was also easy to see how much he cares about the people he shared his stay at “the Toot” with.

The biggest effect of the book on me is that I would love to be able to sit down with Kostos and “compare notes;” to talk about the ways art has sustained me over the darkest parts of my life, about having to reinvent myself, about how universal some of both of our issues were then, and still are now, even though there are many more solutions available to teenagers now than there were when he and I were teens.

As I noted, this was not a comfortable book to read, However, it was incredibly worthwhile to do so because in some ways it brought me face to face with myself. I highly recommend reading this book, and then pursuing some of Mr. Kostos’ other works, which I fully intend to do.

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